|By Mira Harber
The Quiet American is based on a novel by Graham Greene.
It takes place in 1952 in then Indo-China (Vietnam). Michael Caine plays
Thomas Fowler, an English journalist writing for the Times of London. He
has lived in Saigon for a number of years and loves the exotic mix of oriental
and French cultures. Fowler also has a much, much younger Vietnamese mistress
Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen) when he meets Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) an open-faced,
eager young American medical aid worker. The two men strike up a friendship,
and when Fowler goes North to report on some Viet Minh revolutionaries
he is rescued by Fowler, who is not at all what he seems to be.
In fact, Pyle falls in love with Phuong and wants to marry
her, hissing at Fowler "What do you have to offer her?" Fowler, being a
Catholic, is a married for life. His wife (who has lived apart from him
for years in London) will never consider a divorce. As much as anything,
the Quiet American is a classic love story - two men in love with the same
woman, told out to a backdrop of war.
Michael Caine has been nominated for an Oscar for his
role as Fowler. He is a world-weary, bleary eyed, essentially good man,
driven by self-interest but also love and friendship. This is one of the
best roles he has ever portrayed in his very long screen career.
This movie was ready for release before 9/11 but was
considered too 'anti-American' at the time. Seen eighteen months later,
it seems instead a model of restraint.
Moody and atmospheric, The Quiet American remained in
my thoughts for weeks after I first viewed it. Don't miss it.